Book Review: ‘The Half Moon,’ by Mary Beth Keane

half moon, Mary Beth Keen

The experience of reading Mary Beth Keane’s immersive new novel, The Half Moon, is breathtaking, or simply lifelike, comforting. When we meet Malcolm and Jess Geffard, their marriage is in the quagmire of dissolution, a victim of hasty decisions, rash judgment, and exhaustion. She runs Half Moon, a bar that has been working hard and can’t and doesn’t want to give up on her dreams. Jess left him to live temporarily with his friends in nearby New York City.

Jess’ friends tell her that the Gefferts are a couple of sorts, “the king and queen of the prom.” Malcolm is very good-looking, “beautiful, quiet” and “the kind of guy who gets better with age”, and Jess is charming and endlessly smart. She attended law school and works in the city. They met when she was at her house for her visit, and Malcolm, who was already earning money by working in a bar, made the students surrounding Jess look “like little boys.” A law school friend warns Jess that “with Malcolm, her boundaries for her Jess will always be Gillam’s,” but with her infatuation, she moves on. . During the first hectic months of their relationship, Jess found out she was pregnant. Young and in love, they decide to get married, but end up having a miscarriage.

Thus they begin their marriage. Seven years later, Malcolm and Jess decide to have a baby, but find it’s not as easy as they thought. Six and a half years later, they were devastated by the many humiliations of middle age. Thousands of relentless bill cuts, student loans, not having a partner, fertility treatments, etc. Malcolm buys the bar from the elusive Hugh, who has a strange chip on his shoulder about Malcolm’s father owning a more successful bar in Manhattan years ago. I also bought the building without consulting Jess. This decision is a mistake in their relationship, and what’s worse, he completed his transaction without consulting a lawyer (“out of respect” for Hugh).

Malcolm is a man who believes things will work out. This easy-going nature is bitter medicine for the anxious Jess, who is acutely aware of her childlessness. Binky? Do you have Tommy Tippy? Boon Orb? “

Here she meets Neil Bratton, a divorced father who has moved to town with three young children. Whether it’s her ready-made family charm or the result of her growing distance from Malcolm, she feels Jess is drawn to Neil. They exchange provisional, searchable texts that circumvent the line between what is appropriate and what is illegal. Both Malcolm and Jess have experienced near-violence over the course of their marriage, but this one feels more serious.

For example, when Jess hesitates before sending Neil a profane email (because, after all, Jess knows very little about him), “Something told her to stop and think for a minute. She slowly deleted the letters in his name.She deleted the screenshot.”

Later, when Jess left Malcolm and began spending the night at Niels, she immediately envisioned their future. She asked upon her move in and was told only once and then left the recycle there for the rest of the day.

These aren’t shocking or groundbreaking observations, but they’re why immersing yourself in Keane’s quietly glowing prose is so much fun. Her chronicles of life’s small but important moments have a way of representing something big. It’s like talking about parties.

A series of slightly strange intrigues color the end of “Half Moon”. There, Mr. and Mrs. Gefferts think they are committing insurance fraud and unwillingly get involved in her SEC investigation of their clients, figuring out a way to save Barr and possibly their relationship. But suffice it to say that the plot logistics are secondary. Malcolm and Jess provide the real momentum behind this novel. Marriage may be a never-ending, evolving equation of events and decisions that increase or decrease an ex’s reserves of love, but Ultimately, we actually hope that there is still love, and Keen understands this. Her perceptive and generous observation and attention to the inner workings of her characters make the book far more than the sum of its characters. have been successful in finding

Janice YK Lee is the author of “The Piano Teacher” and “The Expatriates”.

half moon | | By Mary Beth Keene | | 304 Pages | Scribner |$28

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